Eastview knew who was in command, so its players watched confidently as he took control.
Evan DeCovich appeared calm as he became the centerpiece of the Lightning's run to the state championship. On the mound and at the plate, he did it all during Monday's Class 3A championship game at Target Field.
He completed his sixth consecutive start, collected half of his team's hits, scored the game's only run and even caught a pair of popups in a 1-0 victory over Bemidji.
The senior carried the load throughout the season and did even more when it was required of him.
"I know DeCovich is a stud," Eastview first baseman AJ Stockwell said.
This was the sentiment around the dugout as the Lightning (22-5) celebrated its first baseball state championship. The pitcher's teammates praised the performance of the 6-4, 260-pounder, adding that he never let them down this year.
"In my opinion, he's Mr. Baseball. I don't how he can't be," Eastview center fielder Brennan Espinda-Banick said. "He's an animal. He carried us. He knows what his role is."
Over the weekend, Eastview coaches considered not starting DeCovich in Monday's finale. In Friday's quarterfinal- semifinal doubleheader, he threw a complete game in the early afternoon and returned that night to close out the second game. It was hard for the righthander to ignore the soreness in his arm. Then he remembered his role.
The excitement of playing at Target Field and in the state championship helped numb any discomfort the pitcher might have had. He struck out four of the first six batters he faced and gave up only one hit through the first four innings. And that was just on the mound.
Batting fourth in the lineup, he collected Eastview's first two hits, a double and a single. His double in the second inning, the game's only extra-base hit, led to the game's lone run. Patrick Strey bunted DeCovich's courtesy runner to third and Stockwell drove in the run on a groundout to shortstop.
DeCovich needed no other runs.
"That's kind of been my job all year," DeCovich said. "I knew I had to put everyone on my back and go. Sometimes I do all I can and sometimes I can't."
Seven innings, two hits, one walk, five strikeouts and 2-for-2 with a run scored showed he can. But DeCovich wouldn't take all the credit. He quickly referenced the team's motto of "Ohana," which mean's family in Hawaiian.
Defensive plays such as center fielder Espinda-Banick's diving catch in the fourth inning were what the team relied on all season to earn the program's first state tournament berth.
"I knew that was the game-changer right there," said DeCovich (8-2) about Espinda-Banick's catch. "I started relying on my defense."
The offense of Bemidji (25-3) never could get anything going. Only once did the Lumberjacks advance a runner into scoring position, but stranded him on third base in the sixth inning.
Sophomore pitcher Ryan Hirt (10-1) continued an impressive season despite picking up his first loss. He threw only 56 pitches, gave up four hits, walked one and struck out three in six innings, but he admitted he was outpitched.
"He pitched better than me today," Hirt said. "I figured for sure we'd score runs. We couldn't though."
Eastview completes a memorable spring for the Apple Valley-based school. The boys' lacrosse team won the school's first boys' varsity state title earlier this month and the baseball team added another in quick fashion.
"I don't know if we expected it, but we knew we could do it," Eastview coach Tom Strey said. "We've never lost in these blue [uniform] tops this year. We call them championship blues."